When Carson High convened its first track practice this spring, head coach Robert Maw was greeted by nearly 150 athletes, the highest total since he took over the program.
“We have lost a few since then, but we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores, and I’m excited about that,” he said Monday afternoon as he watched his squad get ready for Saturday’s three-way meet at Carson. “We don’t have many seniors. It should be a fun year. I’m looking forward to it.”
The girls squad returns Abigail Pradere, who won the 800 (2:17.92) and 1600 (5:06.55) regional titles a year ago.
Also back after a one-year hiatus is Valerie Sue Meyer, the CHS soccer star, who’s coming back after taking off her junior season. She ran a 57.37 in the 400 two years ago, and ranks No. 1 all-time, according to school stats posted on athletic.net.
“Abbi can take care of the distance events (800, 1600 and 3200), and we might triple her this year (800, 1600, relay),” Maw said. “Getting Valerie Sue to come back is a game changer for us. She can run the 400 obviously and probably the 200 plus a relay event or two.”
Meyer placed at state each of her first two years.
Maw is excited about a couple of freshmen runners, Annika Wick and Jaidyn Shepard. Wick ran 65.94 in the 400 and Shepard ran 67.24.
“Annika is raw but strong,” Maw said. “She is right there with Valerie Sue. Jaidyn looks good. She will run the 400 or 800, and we’ll probably use her on the 1600 and/or 3200 relay.”
Abbey Paulson, Anya Woodbury and Erica Basa lead the jump contingent.
Paulson was fifth (34-2) in the regional triple jump, finishing about a foot short of qualifying for state. Basa was 12th at regionals in the triple jump (31-7 1/4) and 19th in the long jump at 13-9 1/4. Basa is coming off an injury and slowly getting into shape.
Maw said he expects Woodbury to jump 36 feet by the end of the year.
Abigail Cowan, who runs the 100, 200, 400 and relays, is the top returning sprinter.
Sophomore Ashley Britt, who runs the 400 and both hurdle events, is slowly working her way into shape after an off-season surgery.
“I’m hoping she will be at full strength by regionals,” Maw said.
Azlyn McFadden, a discus thrower and shot putter, returns after missing last season.
The boys squad is led by Greg Wallace, a fourth-place finisher in the regional high jump. He also will be running the 200 and a relay event.
Top returnees back are Brandon Basa (400, 200, relays), Johnny Barahona (200, 400), Darryll Heyward (400, relays), Dylan Mayo (jumps), Gabe Gabica (pole vault), Adam Flaten (distance), Michael Gould (jumps) and Ben Granatos (hurdles, sprints, long jump) and Adam Maw (100, triple jump).
Michael Gould posted marks of 18-4 and 36-3, respectively, in the long jump and triple jump against Manogue and Damonte Ranch last weekend.
“He is looking good so far,” Maw said. “Heyward ran well last weekend. We are very deep in the 400. We may have Harry (Meyer) run the hurdles. Barahona is working hard and is a lot more focused.”
Adam Flaten, Logan Mead and freshman Zach Sever lead the distance contingent. Blaise Bonomo returns in the shot and discus.
Maw believes Wallace, Basa and Mayo could make state in individual events.
“If he (Wallace) works hard, I think he can pull off a 6-8,” Maw sad.
“Brandon has a shot at state (in the 400). He is also going to run the 200 and a couple of relays.
“Dylan went over 40 in the triple jump last week and nearly 20 in the long jump.”
The new track format kicks in this weekend.
The High Desert and Sierra League will have their own qualifying meets, and the top two from each league and the next five best marks advance to regionals the following weekend.
In addition, all four regional events will be held the second weekend in May at Carson High.